1978 TVR Taimar 3000M: The Midnight Special

The seventies were a wild time. You had Disco balls shining so bright your retinas would melt with just a glance. Powder blue polyester leisure suits were running rampant. Gentlemen wore high heels, ‘fro’s were jiving, Nixon was lying, cats and dogs living in harmony, it was pure chaos. It was the seventies, where in one month you’d be showing off your big-block cucumber-compensator and next you’re trading in for a Datsun because OPEC became a thing. Even better, fiberglass was becoming the next great thing for auto makers, allowing funky shapes and bends like never before! Enter the TVR Taimar, the best kept naughty secret of the decade.

Parked atop the broken asphalt sits a Disco Inferno Red 1978 TVR Taimar 3000M. The front end looks somewhat guppy-like with a hint of Datsun 280Z. It’s not overly attractive but reminiscent of an American Bulldog with its funky rubber bumperettes sticking proudly over its mouth. Certainly not unattractive though, its silhouette screams sports car. The period-correct Panasport wheels gleam in contrast to the car’s blacked-out trim. A quick walk-around reveals a surprisingly useful rear hatch and twin exhaust pipes that look like a novice plumber’s first job. Its styling is surprisingly relevant despite it being made in the late seventies, long nose, short cabin and bobbed tail, and reminds me slightly of a scaled down Scion FR-S.

TVR Taimar

I kick the tire once to make sure it’s road ready after its near 15-year hibernation. What could possibly go wrong? English cars of this era have zero reliability issues. I could describe to you the process one has to through to get seated into this car, but frankly, it’s brutal. Just before removing important limbs, I manage to nestle tightly into the driver’s seat, surrounded by a sea of cowhide leather and an array of mechanic gauges that might read correctly* (Alexa look up Lucas, Prince of Darkness). The pedals are pushed awkwardly far to the left, an afterthought as a result of the large transmission tunnel that occupies more space than its passengers.

Finding Neutral, gripping the thin wooden Nardi steering wheel, I turn the key in the ignition and am promptly greeted with a flurry of grumbles and burbles like that of an old man snoring. Power is near instantaneous with this lightweight pup. Weighing in just shy of 2,300 pounds wet and mated with a Ford 3.0 V6, the TVR Taimar feels like quite the race car. Horsepower was a touchy subject by the late 70s, with this Taimar producing 142 horsepower and 171 lb/ft of torque. It doesn’t seem like a lot now, but it was near muscle car territory then. And it showed, oh boy did it show. This was one of the quickest cars of the decade.

A quick dip of the dump-truck-heavy clutch and the car lunges forward and chirps the rear tires unintentionally. The shifter throw is ridiculously long; pulling it back into second gear I feel like I’m shifting behind me. No matter, by the time I’ve shifted into second it’s time for me to push her into third. The gear changes are happening too quick, this engine is like a Tasmanian devil wanting to pull me into danger. Third is longer, I can breathe for a second but not too long as the tach is climbing to the stars. Pulling the shifter back into fourth I glance at the gauges placed generously before me, noting 3000 rpm as I’m cruising at 70mph. Christ alive how the hell did I get here.

The suspension is so firm I can feel every pebble I hit like a child’s using a sling shot on me. Despite the luxurious interior and near excessive use of leather, it’s just a race car with carpet. With the large, thin-rimmed wood wheel in my hands, the lack of power steering isn’t missed. You feel like a Formula 1 driver, the steering so precise that if you were a surgeon this would be a scalpel.

TVR Taimar engine

The north Georgia mountains feel like my own personal Indy 500, leaning heavily into each turn and digging my foot deeper into the throttle. The twin pipes directly behind my ears are like sirens calling me to my death, begging for me to join them and make them scream. I oblige, downshifting into third for an upcoming banked turn and giving the car the beans. The Taimar settles and suspension dampens nicely, finally playing nice and showing what it was made for. The tachometer is rising steadily, and now understanding the nature of the gearbox, I patiently but firmly pull it back into fourth. I’m greeted by a raspy snarl of the hot Ford 3.0 V6 at my feet. Reaching speeds not worth noting on a public document, the car settles down into its own slipstream and howls like a banshee.

TVR Taimar Casey Wright

Unclenching my jaw, loosening my grip of the wheel, and taking a gasp of air, I descend from orbit and land safely back on Earth. The car, meanwhile, is puttering along as if nothing happened, like we just went out for ice cream. On the other hand, I’m sweating like a mistress of the night in a Baptist church on Sunday. I know what I did. This car truly is an animal. It’s not a James Bond-sleek debonair character, it’s a dominatrix that giggles when you bleed. The seats reflect that – they offer zero support, just a place to be planted. There isn’t a radio nor is there a place for one to exist. No cup holders, no nifty storage pockets. No power steering, no power locks, no power windows, it’s just a sexy fiberglass tub with an engine. And it doesn’t need to be anything more than that.

The TVR Taimar is a purpose-built car, to take to the track over all else. If you take it through a Dairy Queen Drive-thru you’ll be disappointed, but if you pull up next to a Miata or Toyota 86 you’ll be laughing as you thunder past them in the turns and straights with a high note coming from the exhaust that’ll make Donna Summer blush. Find me another car that looks as stunning as this tiny coupe and outperforms it from this era, I’ll be waiting. I’m blessed having the opportunity to drive such wonderful rare and sometimes genuinely real cars. The TVR Taimar 3000M is a race car with carpet. A dominatrix with a bow tie. A pair of stripper “tear away pants”. At any moment, whether you’re ready or not, it’s going to boogie.

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